The Most Common Fall HVAC Problems That Occur This Season

During the fall months, HVAC systems are more likely to suffer common problems associated with the season. Your heating system and cooling unit are prone to experiencing most common issues due to the time of year, with the temperature sitting between heating and air conditioning season. Additional factors can contribute to the possibility of common HVAC issues popping up, such as falling leaves or a lack of regular maintenance.

Williams Comfort Air reviews the common fall issues that could be affecting your air conditioner, heat pump, or furnace, as well as the common reason for each of these HVAC problems. These common HVAC issues can typically be solved by a trained service technician, through regularly scheduled maintenance or by completing a service call to fix or replace malfunctioning HVAC unit components. Some common fall HVAC issues can be corrected when homeowners perform regular maintenance tasks without the help of a professional.

Common Fall Problems Impacting a Forced Air HVAC System

Whether you use furnace equipment or heat pumps for heating in your Indianapolis area home, these common HVAC problems are likely to be found in the fall.

Dirty Air Filters

During summer cooling season, air conditioners see months of heavy system use. With the HVAC system running more often, air makes more passes through the filter as it is circulated through the ducts and equipment. Air filters become clogged with debris and a dirty filter results faster over these months.

Once fall arrives, the air conditioner is shut down and the dirty air filter is often left in place during this in-between time. For the sake of indoor air quality and to prevent a furnace problem such as overheating once it gets cold outside, check and change the air filter this time of year. Continue to change the air filter on a regular basis all year long.

Malfunctioning Thermostat 

In the fall, reprogram smart and programmable thermostats with schedules compatible with heating. Take a look at the thermostat owner’s manual for operating instructions to adjust settings. If you are unable to make these adjustments, there may be a problem with your device. Once it’s time to turn on the heat, homeowners often learn they have a malfunctioning thermostat or broken thermostat because the furnace doesn’t seem to run correctly.

Remember to replace the unit’s batteries once a year or more often if needed. Contact your trained technician to determine if thermostat problems exist. Your technician may be able to fix the issue, or it may be time to install a new thermostat.

Lack of Regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance should be performed on furnace equipment and heat pumps used for heating in the fall. If you skip professional maintenance for your heating equipment this season, this error could result in a number of common fall HVAC issue. Wear and tear damage can cause important system components like sensors or the heat exchanger to malfunction or fail entirely, requiring repairs or replacement. Overheating can cause the furnace to shut down, leaving you without heating for a period of time.

Keep your system in tip-top shape by having regularly scheduled maintenance performed. This should be completed by a licensed, trained service technician each fall.

Duct Leaks

If your HVAC system struggles to provide enough heating throughout your home, holes and gaps in the duct system may be to blame. Leaks in this distribution system allow heat to escape and cold air to come in, further lowering temperatures of heated air traveling to living spaces. Higher energy costs can be a tip-off that this issue exists in your home. Call your HVAC company for duct sealing services to close up duct leaks for better energy efficiency from home HVAC systems.

Tripped Circuit Breaker

The most common cause of a tripped circuit breaker in the fall is an overworked blower motor. Issues forcing a blower motor to work harder and draw more electricity than usual include airflow obstructions due to a dirty air filter or blocked vents. Dirty coils can also make the problem worse. Replace a dirty filter and check that all vents are open in the house prior to resetting the circuit breaker. If the breaker continues to trip, call a professional to diagnose the cause.

Clogged Drains

Air conditioning systems, heat pumps, and condensing furnaces use a condensate drain system to expel moisture from the unit, sending it outside to empty into storm drains or sewer drains. These drain lines can become clogged during cooling season due to a dirty evaporator coil or mold growing in the drip pan. Falling leaves can cause outdoor drains to become clogged, forcing moisture to back up in your heating unit. Clogs in the condensate drain can cause water leaks around equipment and damage to the system.

Clean the drip pan and condensate drain line on a regular basis to ensure moisture flows freely out of the system and your home. Clear leaves away from drains and keep leaves bagged and removed from your property.

Continuous Blower Operation

As the furnace cycles, you may notice that the blower motor stays on all the time. Typically, you want it to run only when a heating cycle occurs. A fan switch that has been mistakenly set may be the cause, which can be fixed by resetting the fan switch toggle on thermostats to AUTO instead of ON. A stuck relay, limit switch, or safety control may force the blower motor to stay on – this issue should be diagnosed and fixed by a technician.

Refrigerant Leaks

For homeowners using heat pumps for year-round heating and cooling, it’s common to discover low refrigerant levels and leaks in refrigerant pipes come fall. This problem comes to light in situations where the heat pump struggles to transfer enough heat to keep the house warm – low refrigerant due to leaks and damage can produce this symptom when using this type of HVAC system.

Diagnosing leaks and repairs should be left to trained technicians with the proper EPA certification for refrigerant handling. A refrigerant leak may exist in the system’s evaporator coil, condenser coil, or along the refrigerant pipes connecting the indoor air handler to the outdoor heat pump unit in a split system. Once refrigerant leaks are repaired, the system needs to be recharged with the correct volume of refrigerant to facilitate energy-efficient operation.

Ignition Problems

Common HVAC problems affecting furnace units this season involve components of the ignition system.

  • Older furnace models may have a pilot light ignition. If your furnace’s pilot light goes out, check the owner’s manual for steps to relight it. If the pilot keeps going out, check for drafts in the area which could be extinguishing it, and correct them. If the pilot light continues to go out, there may be a malfunction with the system’s thermocouple forcing the pilot to go out as a misdirected safety control. The thermocouple may also force the pilot to go out if the flame isn’t burning efficiently (it should be steady and blue, not orange or yellow in color). This could be caused by dirt buildup restricting the gas intake valve. These are issues typically resolved as part of routine furnace maintenance.

  • If your furnace model uses a hot surface ignitor, this component may fail to activate, preventing the furnace from firing up. Ignition problems commonly to blame in this situation include a dirty ignitor, faulty ignitor, loose wiring, faulty control board, or a malfunctioning pressure switch, rollout switch, or limit switch stuck in the open position. If you have a steady hand, you can clean the ignitor if you see dirt buildup on the part – use emery cloth or fine steel wool to remove buildup from the probe. The other causes of an ignitor malfunction should be diagnosed and repaired by a skilled technician.

  • The burners are an important part of a gas furnace ignition system, as they allow gas and air to mix then burn for heat creation. Dirty burners restrict flames in the furnace, causing the system to produce less heat and use more energy. Dirt brought into the system via the air supply can settle on the burners and burners may develop rust over time which contributes to the component clogging up. Dirty burners are cleaned annually when you have a regular maintenance tune-up performed on your furnace by a qualified technician.

Help in Indianapolis for Common Fall HVAC Problems

If you happen to experience any of the common fall HVAC issues discussed above this season, try any troubleshooting steps mentioned and attempt to correct the HVAC problems if you feel comfortable doing so yourself. If troubleshooting work does not fix your HVAC system or the issues impacting your furnace or heat pump are likely beyond what can be targeted through DIY measures, it’s time to get a licensed heating technician on the job.

Williams Comfort Air performs quality repairs for the most common fall HVAC issues we’ve mentioned, as well as any other system troubles you may experience this time of year. Contact us today to book a service call with one of our licensed, NATE-certified heating repair technicians.

Related Reading